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    B.C. optometrists launch a-b-See™ Facebook page to help parents understand the importance of detecting children’s vision problems early

    Vancouver, August 31, 2010 – Although 80 per of a child’s learning is based on vision, the majority of B.C. five-year-olds entering school this year have not had a comprehensive eye exam. That’s something the B.C. Association of Optometrists is hoping to change with the launch of a new Facebook page for its a-b-See™ Children’s Vision Program.



    One in five children has a vision problem, so it is critical that parents ensure an eye exam is on their child’s back-to-school checklist, says Mini Randhawa, a B.C. optometrist.

    “There is nothing more disheartening than to see children who are packed with potential lag behind in school because of an undetected vision problem,” says Dr. Randhawa.

    B.C. optometrists launched the a-b-See™ Facebook page to communicate directly with parents to help ensure their children are seeing and learning to their full potential.

    “We want to be where parents are and make their lives easier by providing them with fun, practical and engaging content about their children’s vision and eye health,” says Dr. Randhawa. “With so many parents using social media these days, a Facebook page is the perfect platform to build an online community where parents and optometrists can interact directly on an ongoing basis.”



    Charmin Shannon is all too familiar with the importance of regular eye exams. When her son Kelly was four years old, an optometrist detected “lazy eye.” This condition, where one eye has weaker vision than the other, can result in vision loss in the weaker eye if not treated early. Kelly had occasional tumbles, but his parents didn’t think it was a vision problem and passed it off as something that happens to kids of Kelly’s age. Fortunately for Kelly, his optometrist detected the condition in time and patched the “good” eye to force the brain to process images from and strengthen the vision in the weaker eye. After patching, and with eyeglasses, Kelly, 9, now sees very well.



    “It’s amazing what they are missing out on, until you help them,” said Shannon. “Give them their first pair of glasses and wow!” 



    Shannon agrees with optometrists’ recommendation to take children sooner rather than later for a comprehensive eye exam, because it’s much easier on a child who needs glasses to start school with them.

    Shannon, who joined Facebook a few months back, thinks a Facebook page is a good way to reach busy moms like her.



    “Facebook is definitely the new way of networking,” said Shannon. “As a mom, a Facebook page is an easy and convenient way to research and access information that I want, as much as I want and when I want.”



    a-b-See™ is a program of the B.C. Association of Optometrists, with support from Essilor. a-b-See™ promotes the life-long practice of regular eye exams by optometrists. Optometrists specialize in examining, diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and related structures. It’s important children have a complete eye exam by six months, at three years, before entering school and regularly thereafter. Don't assume your child has good vision, because he or she passed a school vision screening. School vision screening programs are important, but they should not be substituted for a thorough eye examination. Unlike an optometric eye exam, screenings do not test for many common vision conditions or assess eye health.

    For more information on eye health, visit http://www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com/.

    COMPANION SIDEBAR

    Back-to-school quiz: Assess Your Child’s Risk


    To help parents recognize the warning signs of vision problems before their children go back to school this year, B.C. optometrists have launched a new interactive quiz Assess Your Child’s Risk. It helps alert parents to warning signs related to their children’s reading abilities, school or computer work, health and lifestyle, and recreation.



    Research indicates as many as one in five children has a vision problem. Many children accept poor vision and other eye problems as normal because they don’t know any better. Vision screenings that are provided in school can detect some eye problems, but serious vision and eye health conditions don’t always come with obvious signs. A thorough examination by an optometrist is the only way to know if a child’s eye health is good and their vision is developing normally.

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    To request an interview with a B.C. optometrist or the fact sheet on MSP statistics, contact:

    Mahafrine Petigara, media relations, 604.623.3007, or mahafrine.petigara@edelman.com.

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    FACT SHEET: Common vision disorders in children

    Some of the most common vision conditions affecting children are nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, crossed eyes and lazy eye. The good news is that if detected early, most of these conditions can be corrected by an optometrist.

    • Nearsightedness (myopia) – Individuals see nearer objects more clearly than distant ones because the eyeball is longer than normal.
    • Farsightedness (hyperopia) – The farsighted eye is underpowered, so to see clearly the individual must work extra hard to focus. Children who are very farsighted are often missed by screening tests because they can focus clearly for short periods of time, but their learning may be severely hampered by the effort it takes to focus their eyes.
    • Astigmatism – An irregular curvature of the front surface of the eye that can result in blurred or distorted vision at all distances. This can be particularly challenging for children when reading letters and numbers.
    • Colour deficiency – Hereditary conditions in which people either have no colour vision at all or have difficulty distinguishing between two colours, such as red and green, or blue and yellow. Seeing certain colours is difficult for one or two of every 20 boys and one of every 200 girls.
    • Binocular deficiencies – The inability of the eyes to work together effectively as a team. This includes poor eye alignment, focusing, movement and fixation (i.e. depth perception). This is another problem often missed by screening tests, and is responsible for many reading difficulties. Fortunately, your optometrist can prescribe eye exercises, which are often extremely helpful in treating these problems.
    • Crossed eyes (strabismus) – A vision condition in which the eye muscles fail to align the eyes, causing one or both eyes to turn in, out, up or down. Any child over six months of age who has a turned eye should be evaluated by an optometrist.
    • Lazy eye (amblyopia) – Weak vision or vision loss in one eye, which causes lack of development of that eye. If not treated early, it may be very difficult to regain vision in the lazy eye. This condition is often completely without symptoms. The B.C. Association of Optometrists recommends that children have their first eye exam by six months of age. Depending on risk factors, your optometrist will recommend appropriate follow up. At a minimum, the next eye exam should be by age three, before entering school and regularly afterwards.

    To treat many of these common eye conditions, optometrists often prescribe corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses, enabling young children to rapidly catch up to their preschool pals. For certain conditions, vision therapy – exercises for the eyes – may be an effective treatment. For example, with lazy eye, optometrists often patch the “good” eye as an exercise to force the brain to process images from, and strengthen the vision in, the weaker eye.

    For more information or to request an interview with a B.C. optometrist, contact:

    Mahafrine Petigara, media relations, 604.623.3007, or mahafrine.petigara@edelman.com